With its undefeated run to the top of the Division III men’s basketball poll, the UR Yellowjackets have dominated nearly every team that has stepped on the floor with them. Boasting a starting lineup chock full of talent and experience, there is seemingly nothing opponents can throw at the Yellowjackets that they aren’t suited to handle. But hitting the high notes requires contributions from all sections of the chorus, and so far this season a sour note has yet to be heard from the halls of the Palestra and beyond. At center, junior Seth Hauben patrols the lane with both tenacity on the boards and a soft touch on offense. The 6’6″, 245-pound preseason All-American leads the team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.Flanking him in the post are senior forwards Andy Larkin and Brian Jones. A four-year starter and one of the team’s most vocal leaders, the 6’7″ Larkin enters the weekend averaging 11.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Known for his rebounding and scrappy defense off the bench, Jones can generally be found banging down low and taking care of the “dirty work” around the hoop. Forming one of the most formidable frontcourts in the country, the three big men certainly take up plenty of space on opponents’ scouting reports. But no team still undefeated by February has stayed perfect by relying on a select few stars. A deep bench and some gritty role-play from less heralded starters have helped bail the team out on several occasions in its school-record 18-0 start.”An important reason for our success thus far has been seniors Makedo Wisseh, Mackey Bergman-Clark and juniors Brendan McAllister and Ryan Mee,” Head Coach Mike Neer said. “For the last couple years they were pretty much singing back row in the choir but are now stepping up and singing some solos.”After spending his first two seasons watching mostly from the sideline, Mee has transformed himself into UR’s deadliest three-point threat. Third on the team in scoring at just over nine per game, he has shown a knack for catching fire from long range, shooting an impressive 44% from behind the arc. “It’s a little different from last year,” Mee said of his game day preparation. “I was always ready to go, but this year you know you’re going in and you just have to wait for your time. I just try to make sure I’m always watching the guys on the court and learning from them to make sure I’m prepared.” Classmate McAllister is also enjoying success with the three-ball. After scoring only 14 points during the first two years of his collegiate career, he is averaging over six per contest off the bench this season. Starting all 18 games thus far, Wisseh has provided a spark on both ends of the court for UR. At 6-foot-4, the elastic wing forward often poses matchup difficulties for opposing defenders. The team firmly established its winning formula in a critical University Athletic Association battle against Emory University Jan. 23. UR found itself in an unfamiliar position. After never trailing in the second half of a game all season, the Yellowjackets were down by eight at the break to the hot-handed Eagles in Atlanta. As usual, Hauben and Larkin were doing their part on offense to keep UR in the game. But Emory’s scoring barrage would not wilt and the Yellowjackets were down by four inside the final two minutes. With their backs to the wall against the Eagles, it was not the marquee names, but the supporting cast that came to the rescue and stole the show. Mee knocked down a three-pointer to bring UR within one at 71-70 and classmate McAllister followed with a trey of his own to give the Yellowjackets a two-point edge. Up a point with 21 seconds to go, Senior Wisseh stepped to the line and confidently sank two free throws to push the lead to three. A suffocating defense lead by Sophomore guard Joe Canty prevented the Eagles from getting a good look at the end and UR raced off the court unscathed. “In our toughest game to date, the last eight come-from-behind points were scored by guys who hadn’t been in the last couple of minutes of a key game before at UR,” Neer said. “To me that really solidified us as a team. We’re deep in the bench and the guys have been delivering.” Heading into a tough road trip this weekend to face University of Chicago and Washington University the squad knows it will need contributions from all directions if it hopes to keep its record unblemished. “There’s no question that the “big names” draw a lot of the attention and when that happens, others have stepped up,” Neer said. If they keep it up, many of the lesser known Yellowjackets will soon be developing names for themselves.
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